August 2, 2022
Charissa Duisters

What is Upcycling: A Complete Beginner’s Guide

What to do with things you actually want to throw away, because there is no use for it anymore? Reconsider that trip to the recycling center and read this article

Making new and useful products from things you initially wanted to throw away, that sounds great doesn’t it? This doesn’t only help you save money, but it also helps to minimise the waste you’re producing. You might be thinking: “but I am not creative” or “where do I start??”. Look no further, we are here to provide you with all the information you need to embark on your Upcycling Journey, and share our best tips with you:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Get inspired online
  3. Keep trying
  4. Trash to treasure
  5. Prepare ahead of time

What is Upcycling?

Before we’re able to move on to the “why” and “how”, we first need to talk about the “what”. Especially the “What is upcycling?”. Simply put, upcycling is about using materials and/or items and repurposing them in a creative way. By doing this, you’re expanding the lifespan of this product.

Why Upcycle?

Upcycling is definitely a ‘bang for your buck’. You’re essentially using items you already have and giving them more value by repurposing in a way that makes it useful to you. For example, you could use an old t-shirt you don’t fit anymore to make a pillow cover you desperately need!

Besides the money part, upcycling also plays a big part in the ecological part. By extending a product’s lifespan, you’re essentially contributing to reducing CO2 emissions. You’re not only extending the lifetime of that specific product, but also the lifetimes of all used materials, components and products, and spending less energy in the extraction, transformation and recycling.

For example, by repurposing that t-shirt we talked about earlier, you’re reducing a lot of pollution that would normally get used to create your pillow case. Textiles undergo a very chemically-intensive process because of the way they’re washed, bleached, dued, and treated. This pollutes the air, soil, and water when released untreated into the nearby environment.

So, when someone asks you ‘what is upcycling?’, you could answer them by saying ‘a bang for your inflated buck, and a bang for the garbage truck’.

What can I Upcycle?

There are no limits to the upcycling game. It is possible to upcycle nearly everything once you get the hang of it. Usually, upcyclers have a preference for a certain category. There are a lot of people who like to upcycle clothing items and therefore focus on that more than furniture.

When a non-upcycler looks at an old teacup, they might not have a clue about what they could do with it. However, when a seasoned upcycler looks at that same item, they probably have a million ideas and plans, such as making a candle in it or even a serving tower.

Therefore, the only thing limiting you is creativity and skill, things you will learn during the process!

How to Start Your Own Personal Project for Upcycled Design?

It might seem overwhelming at first to embark on your upcycling journey. Exactly for that reason, we compiled a few tips to help you get started!

1. Keep it simple.
Especially when starting out, it is important to start small and work your way up to more complicated projects. Taking on something you can’t complete will only discourage you.

2. Get inspired online.
Often, doing the work or sourcing the items for your next project isn’t the trickiest part, it’s finding inspiration in the first place. The internet is a great resource to use to get inspiration for your projects. Try searching ‘upcycling’ on Pinterest or Google. You can even find complete tutorials on Youtube! This is also a great place to find tutorials that teach you new skills you need for your projects, such as sewing or drilling. You could also try joining a Facebook community such as this one.

3. Keep trying.
It might not go exactly to plan the first time, but it is also very valuable to learn from those mistakes and develop your skills. This will only help you move forward and take up more and more intricate and elaborate projects.

4. Trash to treasure.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Think twice before throwing anything out as anything can be upcycled. These upcycled items can make great, personalised gifts. You could even start selling them if you don’t need them yourself!

5. Prepare ahead of time.
When starting a new project, make sure you are equipped with everything you need. This minimises the chance your new project will end up in a corner somewhere. Immediately finishing also encourages you to keep going.

What will your next project be? Let us know here!